What is a Conjunction?
A conjunction is a part of speech that is used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. They can be one word or a few words. They glue words, phrases and clauses together and are made to convey two ideas in one sentence.
For example, if you wanted to convey the idea that Harrison lives on your street and Charlie lives on your street, the easiest way is to use a conjunction:
“Harrison and Charlie live on my street.”
It’s much more natural and economical than saying “Harrison lives on my street” and “Charlie lives on my street.”
Can you see how the word “and” has glued to the two ideas together in one sentence? Well, that’s what they do!
The 4 Types of Conjunction
There are 4 types of conjunction:
– Conjunctive adverbs
(The last two types are not part of the UK National Curriculum and some argue that they are sub-types of co-ordinating conjunctions in any case.)
1. Co-ordinating conjunctions
Co-ordinating conjunctions join two sentence elements with the same grammatical value. In other words, they join:
(1) Words to words
(2) Phrases to phrases
(3) Clause to clauses
(4) Sentences to sentences
There are 7 common co-ordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS)!
For; and; nor; but; or; yet; so – (some people use the mnemonic FANBOYS to remember them)
– For – is used to explain the ‘why’. She will be late for school for she has an appointment.
– And – is used when two similar clauses or points are made. Harrison and Charlie live on my street.
– Nor – is used about similar two items but in a negative sense. He is neither smelly nor dirty.
– But – is generally used to show a contrast between two clauses. I like living in Chorley but my family like living in Manchester.
– Or – is used to suggest an alternative. Do your homework or you will be in trouble!
– Yet – is used to show a contrast in spite of something. Hannah knew it was naughty, yet she did it anyway.
– So – is used to show a result of something. I’ve just scored the winning goal, so my team will be playing in the final.
Using a Comma with Coordinating Conjunctions
– A comma is used before the co-ordinating conjunction only when it connects two independent clauses. I wanted to play tennis, but Evie wanted to play football.
– When a coordinating conjunction is used to join two words or two phrases, we do not use a comma. Harrison and Charlie live on my street.
– When a co-ordinating conjunction is used with more than two items, the comma before the coordinating conjunction is optional and is known as an “Oxford comma” – typically seen in a list.
2. Subordinating Conjunctions
So where co-ordinating conjunctions join two sentence elements with the same grammatical value, subordinating conjunctions join sentence elements with different grammatical value. In other words, they join: words to phrases, phrases to clauses, clause to sentences, etc.
Another way to think of subordinating conjunctions is as a link between two clauses of a complex sentence where one of the clauses is an independent clause and the other is a subordinate clause.
There are many subordinating conjunctions but the most common are: after, although, as, as if, because, before, how, if, since, than, though, unless, until, when, where and while.
Types of Subordinate Conjunctions
Cause & Effect
“Because” is a conjunction that demonstrates a cause-and-effect relationship between a subordinate clause and an independent clause. On its own, a clause beginning with “because” is incomplete.
Because he wouldn’t go to school.
This is a fragment. There is something missing.
George was in trouble.
This is a clause.
Now we will combine the two together to form a a complex sentence:
George was in trouble because he wouldn’t go to school.
Other subordinating conjunctions that typically show cause-and-effect are for, as, as a result, due to, because of, unless, as a result of, since, and so.
Time or Place
Another type of subordinating conjunctions is one that relates two clauses by a time or place. Some examples of such subordinating conjunctions are once, while, when, whenever, where, wherever, before, and after.
While George was in trouble, he wouldn’t go to school.
Commas and Subordinating Conjunctions
Subordinating conjunctions in the middle of a complex sentence are generally not preceded by a comma. The opposite of coordinating conjunctions!
When a subordinate clause begins a sentence, however, the whole clause (but not the subordinating conjunction itself) is followed by a comma.
List of Subordinating Conjunctions
(4) as long as
(5) as much as
(6) as soon as
(9) by the time
(10) even if
(12) in order that
(13) in case
(14) now that
(17) only if
(18) provided that
3. Correlative Conjunctions
Correlative conjunctions are a sub-type of co-ordinating conjunctions because the sentence fragments they connect are equal. They are made up of a pair of words or phrases that work together.
• Both Charlie and George liked football.
• Summer is as fast as Hannah.
• She is both intelligent and knowledgeable.
• Glen is neither rich nor famous.
• Helen is not only smart, but also very generous.
List of Correlative Conjunctions
• Not only/but also
• as many/as
• no sooner/than
Conjunctive adverbs are another subtype of co-ordinating conjunctions as they join two clauses or sentences together.
As you know, an adverb modifies verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, clauses, and even complete sentences. Adverbs are typically easy to spot because they typically end in -ly.
So we are looking for adverbs that act as conjunctions (join two sentence elements together).
List of Conjunctive Adverbs
Never start a sentence with a conjunction?
At school, we were taught that starting a sentence with a conjunction was incorrect English.
It reflects the idea that an incomplete thought has been expressed somewhere. For example, “And he threw the stone at the window” feels like it is part of the previous idea. “Adam hit Simon with a stone and he also threw a stone at a window.”
However, style guides for most newspapers and journals make it clear that starting a sentence with a conjunction is perfectly fine.
This is correct as a subordinating conjunction can begin a sentence if the dependent clause comes before the independent clause and it is perfectly correct to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction.
Often, having a conjunction at the start of a sentence is a good way to add emphasis. However, beginning too many sentences with conjunctions will cause the device to lose its force.
6 Activities to Teach Conjunctions
Conjunction Word Wall.
Have students write down all the words they can think of that are conjunctions.
Remove duplicates, give them some example sentences using a different conjunction, and ask for more. You can also add a new conjunction into the sentence and let the kids pick it out. Then create a wall with all the suggestions.
Put students in pairs and let them both write a sentence at the same time. Then ask the whole class to use conjunction words to link the two sentences up and choose a winner that is either the most funniest, or the most surprising.
Kids love playing Bingo. You can make some cards with nine spaces and in each space there’s a conjunction word.
When the teacher calls out a words, students need to come up with a sentence using that word before he or she can cross it off. Students with three conjunction words in a row wins.
Wheel of Conjunction.
Students spinning a wheel to answer questions on conjunction.
Each area on the wheel represents a category such as food, music, sports or any other areas. Each question requires the student to fill in a blank that completes a sentence.
For instance: “I will do my homework (blank) eat pizza later”. You can also make it a multiple choice question by having “and,” “then,” “during” and “when” as options.
It’s always good to use classic games like Hangman which encourage students to work together to guess conjunctions letter by letter, or word search puzzles that asks students to find conjunction words hidden in a page full of letters.
Grammar with Emile
There’s no better way to avoid marking hundreds of worksheets than using technology. Children love tablets and computers, so why not use them to help achieve goals and make life easier?
Grammar with Emile, for instance, provides a great conjunction assignment. The questions are aligned to the National Curriculum, and when pupils start to compete in multiplayer mode and collect coins to buy clothes for their Emile, the impact on attainment can be quite remarkable.
Spot the Conjunction
Below is a list of sentences containing conjunctions. See if you or your class can spot them all!
Pizza and burgers are my favourite snacks.
The treasure was hidden in the cave or in the underground lagoon.
What those girls say and what they actually do are completely different.
I work quickly and carefully.
Sophie is clearly exhausted, yet she insists on dancing till dawn.
I’d like pizza or a salad for lunch.
We needed a place to concentrate, so we packed up our things and went to the library.
Jesse didn’t have much money, but she got by.
Not only am I finished studying for English, but I’m also finished writing my history essay.
I am finished with both my English essay and my history essay.
I can stay out until the clock strikes twelve.
Before he leaves, make sure his room is clean.
Because I was thirsty, I drank a glass of water.
Tom likes to eat pizza, but Sarah likes to eat hamburgers.
Dogs and cats make perfect pets.
I read poems and short stories.
Do you want pancakes or waffles?
My dog is neither mean nor aggressive.
I usually see my sister, parents, and aunt during the holidays.
I am going to America for vacation, or I am going to Africa.
Sarah likes ice cream, but eating diary makes her sick.
She is very tired, yet she has lots of work to do.
I like to read history books and story books.
She often goes running or hiking.
Neither the cat nor the dog knocked over the potted plant.
I can pass after the green light is on.
Although she speaks seldom, she says meaningful words.
I went to bed at 10 pm as I had a plane to catch at 7 am.
She usually eats at home, because she likes cooking.
My work must be finished before afternoon.
He works every day, even on Sundays.
You will go to that cinema even if they don’t allow you.
Michael has a lot of money however he’s not all that happy.
Let me know if you go to the school.
Just as I was watching the football match on TV, electricity went off.
You must study hard lest you fail.
Now go home and cook meat meals.
Once I start eating, I must continue.
I will go to cinema provided the others go.
Since I was ill for two months, I lost my job.
She was too late so that she could not apply for the job.
Supposing you had a dog, what would you do with it?
She runs faster than me.
Though it is raining, they swam in the pool.
Please stay at home till afternoon.
I will go to supermarket unless it is very crowded.
I waited up for her until eleven o’clock.
I was watching tv when she came in.
You can come whenever you want.
She was eating in the kitchen, where there was table.
She is very funny whereas he is boring.
We can meet you wherever you want.
I worry about whether she’ll be a good person.
I found the article which was very important.
While I was playing with the children, he came the park.
I visited Alice who was ill.
Whoever says so is a liar.
She asked him why he was playing football.
He couldn’t understand why they would do that.
She declared that whoever did it should own up.
He knew immediately who had done it.
She didn’t know who to turn to.
He should have known to ask her why.
They clearly outlined why this move was needed.
They couldn’t figure out who had done it.
Becca decided she didn’t like whoever that was.
I just can’t understand why he did it.
Do you know why they are here?